Valentina De Santis is young, talented, and embodies all of the superb style and hospitality you would expect from the owner and CEO of Grand Hotel Tremezzo. This stunning hotel with spa and gardens, and their own in-the-lake swimming pool and beach is located in Tremezzo, one of the villages that dot Italy’s famed Lake Como. It has exquisite views of the lake and mountains, scattered villas and magical Bellagio across Lake Como.
Lake Como was often part of a tour of Europe the wealthy and aristocratic did for cultural enlightenment in the 1800’s. Spectacular villas in beautiful destinations in Italy were visited. A family from Bellagio originally started the hotel in 1910. In the mid-1970’s Ms. De Santis’s grandfather bought the hotel and Grand Hotel Tremezzo began to modernize and reclaim its former beauty. It added incredible gardens, pools and of course was known for gracious hospitality offered to their guests. Valentina’s parents took the helm and continued to welcome kings, stars and glitterati. Enter Valentina, the third generation in this family dedicated to The Grand Hotel Tremezzo and her guests.
Committed to her role as CEO, Valentina studied and received a B.A. degree in Business Administration and a Master of Science in General Management. A hands-on motivator, she excels in design; and the hotel has a palatial architecture, extraordinary colors in the main lobby, lounge and Billiards room, while the sleeping rooms, spa and restaurants are chic and elegant. To those who know her in the hospitality industry, Valentina is innovative and inspiring. LuxeGetaways was so pleased to learn that the bright hotelier behind this storied Lake Como hideaway was a woman, we decided she would be our very first female featured in our “Art of Hospitality.” It is with great pleasure we present Valentina De Santis to you via our interview.
LuxeGetaways: Hello Valentina, we visited Grand Hotel Tremezzo recently and it left quite a positive impression in terms of spectacular location, beautiful architecture and furnishings, top-notch service, gourmet restaurants and bar, a elegant spa, and the sense of well-being one gets when one is well taken care of. It is wonderful to be able to find out more about the hotel and your vision for the future.
Valentina, your hotel “does hospitality” incredibly well. From the moment one’s car pulls into the port cochere on arrival, you are made to feel welcome… as if they were waiting all day to greet an old friend. Check-in is formal but friendly even when it is busy. How do you manage or instill these things? They make a difference.
Valentina De Santis: The answer is just a very easy word: FAMILY. The wonderful people that take care of our guests every day since the very first moment at check-in, all belong to what is really an enlarged family. Not a ‘staff,’ or a ‘team’ — we are all a big beautiful family. And what does a family do when guests come to visit at home? They typically aim to make them feeling welcomed and right at home. People who stay with us are always a guest, never a client. This is the magic of being a family business. Magic that my grandparents taught my parents, and that my parents passed down to me. True hospitality is something that you have in your DNA, but on top of that I have the immense luck of being helped every day by the most wonderful people who have the means of good hospitality in their blood: the GHT Family!
LG: When arriving in the Main Salon or lobby the guest is immediately energized by the jewel colors you have selected to upholster the more traditional furniture shapes. All I could think of was that this is certainly a stylish Italian statement. And I loved it. Where do you get your design inspiration?
VDS: The inspiration comes from my mother and father who taught me since I was a child to enjoy the beautiful things in life, and the reverence for history and traditions. These values are deeply rooted in my soul. Grand Hotel Tremezzo is like my home and behind every choice, there is always a very meticulous research for beauty, combined with a deep respect for the past and of course — a little touch of my personality and taste.
LG: La Terrazza Restaurant under your talented head chef Osvaldo Presazzi, with its flowers, candlelight, striped awnings, iron-work railings, grand cuisine and wine, and breathtaking views of Lake Como, it could be the most romantic restaurant in Italy. But your newer restaurant L’Escale Trattoria & Wine Bar is what I want to talk about. The feel is completely different than the timeless La Terrazza. Here it is more like a smart spot in Milano with leather and wool suiting used as detailed upholstery, stacked stone walls, a club-by bar, and lots of wine on display in the glass cases. Menu runs to meats and fish with unique twists. Can you tell us a bit more about this restaurant?
VDS: Nestled in the ancient wine cellars of the hotel, L’Escale is a very special and dear place to all of my family. Back in the 70’s, it was where my parents had their first date! It has always been the informal and relaxed corner of our Grand Hotel for the guests to spend enjoyable moments admiring the waters of the lake changing colors from dusk until dawn. When we decided to renovate it, we wanted to pay a tribute to two cornerstones of Italian hospitality, and at the same time two pillars of L’Escale itself: the trattoria and the enoteca, revisited with just a touch of modern elegance. We also decided to keep the original name, L’Escale, which means ‘the dock’, the place for a lovely stop while touring the lake. This is what we hope L’Escale will still be for our guests, a place to celebrate life with a nice glass of wine (mandatory Italian) while enjoying a delicious dinner (Italian too!).
LG: Valentina, out of all of your roles and responsibilities, what part of the job as CEO makes managing Grand Hotel Tremezzo the most challenging? How do you strive to overcome this challenge?
VDS: The most challenging part of my job is to find a balance with being a mother. I have a wonderful son that is truly a gift and now two-years-old, but I like to joke that I have two kids to take care of: my son, and the hotel. Taking care of Grand Hotel Tremezzo has always been a passion although time consuming. Now I must say I have to split my time and my energy between two very important jobs, two very important kids, which can sometimes be challenging but a lot of fun.
LG: What do you enjoy the most?
VDS: I enjoy everything about my job, starting from the fact that every day is different and it is impossible to get bored, to the simple thing that we take care of and provide joy to every single guest. Having to deal with people that are staying with us just to make a once-in-a-lifetime experience and to collect unforgettable memories with their beloved ones is the most amazing job I could dream of. And on top of that, there is the fact that every day I have the opportunity to meet amazing people who share part of their life with me. Guests, agents, journalists, everyone with a unique story to tell that enriches my own life. I feel truly blessed!
LG: Do you have any specific spots or sights that you would highly recommend to travelers visiting the lake?
VDS: Above everything else, I really suggest to every traveler visiting to explore the unparalleled charm of Lake Como from the water. It is such a different and special perspective to enjoy the beauty of my beloved lake! Renting an époque wooden boat and letting your captain guide you, riding one of the typical ‘battellos’ crowded with a perfect mix of other visitors and locals, or driving your own motor boat to wander around, there is nothing better and more special than discovering the lake…from the lake!
LG: Do you have a place on the lake that inspires you or influences your incredible personal style?
VDS: It is the lake itself that inspires me, with its colors, its charm and its unconditional beauty that enchants people from all over the world since centuries. When you are born and raised on a lake, it really enters your soul and becomes part of your DNA.
LG: Can you explain what luxury means to you?
VDS: I strongly believe that luxury should not be measured by only expensive goods or exclusive upscale services. I think that we should rather shift its meaning to a more thorough sight. I would then translate real luxury into something much more personal and intimate, the awareness of the value of quality, attention to details, uniqueness of history, love of culture and authenticity that make up unique experiences and are able to give us real emotions that will last for a lifetime.
LG: I understand the hotel is seasonal and closes each winter for a few months to renovate the property and bring new amenities to guests. You have recently reopened for the 2018 season. Please tell us how you continue to make Grand Hotel Tremezzo a must-visit on Lake Como? Are there any new programming or experiences that will be available in 2018?
VDS: With a historical property like Grand Hotel Tremezzo that boasts over 100 years of history, it is absolutely essential to never stop improving and keep looking forward. Ours is an ongoing project of aiming to renew, and improve the hotel and what it has to offer. This is our way to celebrate over 100 seasons of passion and dedication by maintaining our priceless heritage and remain as timeless as ever.
LG: Valentina, you have recently gained management of Villa Sola Cabiati, the historic residence that once belonged to the noble Serbelloni family, and made it exclusively available to guests of Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Would you tell us what attracted you to take this property under your wing? And what is it used for?
VDS: Since the 18th century, Villa Sola Cabiati has been considered one of the most beautiful and most fascinating villas flanking Lake Como. Stepping into its gate means stepping into a story filled with art, architecture and aristocratic art de vivre. It is one place in the world where you can really breathe in the past, to live the history. It sounds like a credit card advertising campaign, but this is absolutely priceless. We couldn’t ask for a more special and unique experience to offer our guests, especially those looking to do something extraordinary. Guests can have the villa exclusively to themselves, lavishing in the privilege, elegance and grandeur of times past.
LG: Grand Hotel Tremezzo has won many international and worldwide awards and recognition. Could you mention a few?
VDS: The past few years have been very generous for Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Among the many important recognitions at national and international levels, we are very proud of being included in multiple of Condé Nast Traveler’s lists for some consecutive years, both as a result of the preferences of the readers and of the editors, which both make us feel truly honored. Other awards that are very important to us came in 2016 almost simultaneously from two specially important partners for us, and crowned GHT as Hotel of the Year for Preferred Hotels & Resorts, and our T Spa as Best of the Best Spa for Virtuoso. These are just a few that come top of mind, and I truly hope that our efforts and love for our magnificent Palace will continue to be recognized in the years to come.
LG: Thank you so much Valentina De Santis, CEO, Grand Hotel Tremezzo for allowing our readers to get to know you and your exquisite property on Lake Como. I think they should make their reservations right now!
VDS: Thank you for allowing me to be part of LuxeGetaways’ Art of Hospitality, this is one of the most important recognitions for me personally and I’m happy I could share my love of the lake with your readers.